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Published: Sunday, 8/22/2004

WW II veteran was teacher of gymnastics in Monroe

Walter T. Guenther, a World War II veteran and former gymnastics teacher in the Monroe school system, died of pneumonia Friday in Flower Hospital. He was 89.

Born in Fitchburg, Mass., Mr. Guenther met his wife, Ola, in 1940, when they were both students at what was then Michigan State Normal College in Ypsilanti, Mich. It later became Eastern Michigan University

Mr. Guenther was drafted into the Army, training in California to work in ordnance.

In 1943, the couple were married in Denver, Colo., because that was the farthest the Army would allow him to travel from his base, his wife said yesterday.

"He was a very quiet person who enjoyed life and was very pleasant to get along with," Mrs. Guenther said.

Following their marriage, the couple lived in Pasadena, Calif., until 1944, when Mr. Guenther was sent to Japan. His wife returned to Toledo and worked at the Army ordnance depot in Rossford.

When World War II ended, Mr. Guenther, then a sergeant, came to Toledo and returned to his studies in Ypsilanti, where he earned his bachelor of education degree in 1947.

Mr. Guenther, a gymnast, then got a job with the American Turners in Toledo.

"He loved gymnastics, especially working on the bars, but he did it all," Mrs. Guenther said.

"He was always doing gymnastics, and then people asked him why he didn't go for a higher degree," she said.

It was then that Mr. Guenther returned to school, earning a master's degree in education at the University of Toledo.

He took a job teaching gymnastics at Hurd Road Elementary School in Monroe.

He taught there for 18 years until he retired in 1981.

"He loved teaching children," Mrs. Guenther said.

An avid writer, Mr. Guenther, loved poetry. He wrote mostly about holidays, dedications at people's birthdays, and celebrations, and about everyday events, said his wife.

A member of the Zion Lutheran Church, Mr. Guenther also loved singing. He sang with the Teutonia Maennerchor choir, which he joined in 1968.

He was he was a member of the Greater Beneficial Union. He also was the first president of the German American Festival Retirees.

The Guenthers, who did not have children, loved to travel, mostly to New England, where Mr. Guenther had many relatives.

"We mostly vacationed on the coast of New Jersey," Mrs. Guenther said.

She recalled that her husband enjoyed life and "was always very kind and thoughtful and loved to dance."

Mr. Guenther is survived by his wife, Ola Gene Guenther, his brother, Edward, and numerous nieces and nephews.

Visitation will be from 2 to 6 p.m. today at the Foth Dorfmeyer Funeral Home.

A funeral service will be held at 1 p.m. tomorrow in Zion Lutheran Church.

Interment will follow at Ottawa Hills Memorial Park.

The family suggests tributes to the Teutonia Maennerchor.



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